Pope’s visit to Lesvos must shed light on abuses under EU-Turkey deal

Amnesty International experts available for interview after recent research trip
Saturday’s visit by Pope Francis and Eastern Orthodox Christian leaders to the Greek island of Lesvos is a golden opportunity to expose the disturbing plight of thousands of refugees and migrants arbitrarily detained there since the ill-begotten EU-Turkey deal came into force on 20 March, Amnesty International said.

“During his visit, Pope Francis will shed light on the crucial role of local and international solidarity to help some of the most vulnerable people amid the refugee crisis. But he must also speak out about the violations, fear and uncertainty suffered by thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in limbo on Lesvos and elsewhere in Greece,” said Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Director for Europe at Amnesty International.

At Moria detention camp on Lesvos, we witnessed with our own eyes the crushing impact the EU-Turkey deal is having on men, women and children, including a large number of vulnerable refugees, being held arbitrarily. The Pope should make clear that the failure to change course would be Europe’s shame.

Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Director for Europe at Amnesty International

“At Moria detention camp on Lesvos, we witnessed with our own eyes the crushing impact the EU-Turkey deal is having on men, women and children, including a large number of vulnerable refugees, being held arbitrarily. The Pope should make clear that the failure to change course would be Europe’s shame.”

An Amnesty International research team gained access on 5 and 6 April to the highly restricted detention centres of Moria, on Lesvos, and VIAL, on Chios. 

They witnessed thousands of refugees and migrants being held arbitrarily in appalling conditions amid growing uncertainty, fear and despair over their fate under the EU-Turkey deal. Many were confused about their asylum status and feared being returned to Turkey.  

The organization has also documented violations against refugees and migrants in Turkey since the deal was struck, including forcible returns of refugees to Afghanistan and Syria.